You know, walking dates are the best things that have ever happened to mankind. Come on, what better way for two nervous people to get to know each other than talk while they do the thing they do every day to get around? It makes a lot of sense, right?
KP Karuppu would concur.
Well, he has been crushing on Irene, an Angio-Indian girl from his neighbourhood for some months now, and it had flip-flopped his daily routine like an iceberg capsizing a boat. He adores her and the staggering aura that surrounded her, but at the back of his mind, he also knows that she’s way out of his league, in the most ruthless sense.
To put things in perspective, Karuppu makes a living out of rearing roosters for cockfights. Irene goes to college. He resides in a small shelter house with his mom, and yet, would spend most of his day out with his friends. She lives with her extended family in a cottage that smells of lush greenery and cologne. He wears his heart on his sleeve – his emotions erupting out like mini-explosions. Happiness, for him, means going dancing on the streets without a care in the world, and wrath, more often than not, ends up in random blood baths and few bones being crunched. She rarely emotes, both inside and outside. You could spot a faint smirk at the corner of her lips when she feels good, and her protests reveal themselves as mute, eerie silences. He bottoms up a quarter of whisky in a gulp, and gorges on meen kozhambu and nalli elumbu fry, couched on the pavement. She cuts her way through her steak and pasta with the help of knives and forks. He had made the sands and the dirt his very own hangouts. She visits the community park with her parents once a month. Calling these singular personalities the opposite ends of the spectrum would be utterly criminal. Hey, with them in the picture, the spectrum itself disappeared.
But, when has infatuation ever taken to the barbed wires of the social construct? Just thinking about Irene brings a smile to Karuppu’s face, and a vibrant twinkle in his eyes. At some level, he probably realizes she might probably end up as someone he will most likely never talk to, or even meet, but that doesn’t stop him from giving in to his reveries.
So, when on a destined late-evening, Irene invites him to take her out on a stroll around the city, Karuppu’s heart almost skips a beat. He tries to put together her sudden change of heart, in vain. Has she somehow glimpsed upon a brighter side of his almost-impenetrable routine? Has years of bland solitude made her reach for the prospect of some adventure? You don’t know, yet.
Irene, having sneaked out of her house, guardedly follows Karuppu, who’s still staggering in unexpected shock. They walk slowly and fumblingly, taking wary half-steps, till they reach the corner of their street. The air of gawkiness is strikingly palpable.
And in a wondrous moment of intuition-taking-over-rationale, he slides his palms into hers, and leads her along. She mock-protests, but he sort of comes up with a masterstroke line, “கூட வரனு சொல்ற.. உன்ன சேஃப்டியா கூப்ட்டு போணுமா இல்லியா… அதுக்காண்டி தான் கைய புடிச்சேன்! வேணான்னு சொன்ன வுட்ருவேன்.” Hell, it takes a special kind of stoicism to resist such charm, and Irene clearly doesn’t have it. And their fingers get intertwined as they walk away into the mist.
And, Prashanthini’s breezy, full-hearted alaap begins. It’s stirring. And gratifying, at a very profound level.
GV Prakash, probably taking inspiration from his times with Saindhavi, intercepts her with a violin bit that takes the prelude to a whole new level. You can’t help but give in to the tasteful conspiracy of the folk rhythm.
The night has now started for Irene and Karuppu – one they will carry with them to their death beds. They start strolling through the darkness of the enticing roads, which never seem to end. A whole new universe had magically opened up. To accommodate two sweet persons, who are trying to cross over into their respective contradictory worlds.
And now, like a streak of silvery moonlight bathing their momentous night, SPB and SP Charan take over. Believe me, it’s like nothing you have ever felt before. It celebrates, yet counsels. It entices, yet muddles. It suggests, yet pulls back. The camaraderie is truly fascinating.
அய்யயோ நெஞ்சு அலையுதடி
ஆகாயம் இப்போ வளையுதடி
என் வீட்டில் மின்னல் ஒளியுதடி
எம்மேல நிலா பொழியுதடி…
Karuppu and Irene traverse the footpaths, holding hands – a tingling feeling spreading throughout their entire body. The street lights seem strangely cosy, in the otherwise looming darkness. And, from time to time, there are the faintly sinister silhouettes of curious men – equally threatened by the couple’s untimely presence, no doubt, as they are by theirs. And the night stretches, filled with conversations that had never been so honest, vulnerable and enthusiastic. It’s almost as if this transference – of all things soulful – was destined to happen.
உன்னை பார்த்த அந்த நிமிஷம்,
மறைஞ்சி போச்சே நகரவே இல்ல…
தின்ன சோறும் செரிக்கவே இல்ல
His heart burning in his wrists and palms, her hand so perfectly warm in that cold, they walk on. They make several loops of their alley, how many neither of them can recall. On the first few circuits, the talk has been shy, almost becoming familiar and then each of them backing away. Another few circuits and they start making random small talk – from everyday trivia to embarrassing secrets. You can’t describe that kind of a conversation; you just have to feel it. He’s smiling without realising it. Her face is almost melting.
SPB and Charan are at their intriguing best now, as they breeze through Snehan’s love-drunk lyrics like a dream.
உன் வாசம் அடிக்கிற காத்து,
என் கூட நடக்கிறதே!
என் சேவ கூவுற சத்தம்
உன் பேர கேக்குறதே…
As Karuppu and Irene walk along the highway, she opens up a little more. He then takes her to meet his friends, who are boozing to glory, on a random terrace, as if its the most natural thing to do in the wee hours. The glowing moon hits Irene just right so you could see that broad smile on her face. The girl is truly going through a lot, and it shows.
உன்னை தொடும் அனல் காத்து
குழம்பி தவிக்குதடி என் மனசு!
They stand on the sidelines of a random bridge and watch the sparkling water. They stop for a glass of ‘kattanchaya’ at the roattukada. They watch a bit of an old-school therukoothu. They take the local MTC bus, occupying opposite seats, the handrail in the middle telling a story of its own.
And in the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights, Madurai seems like an alien city to Irene. For a girl, who had never stepped out of her balcony after 7 pm, its all staggering, in its literal sense. But, she’s in no mood to stop.
ஹோ திருவிழா கடைகளைப் போல
திணறுறேன் நான் தானே…
எதிரில் நீ வரும்போது
Karuppu’s looking at her freely now. She doesn’t want to hide any more of her skyrocketing-awe in pointless reticence. He kind of sees his whole life go by, in front of him, on her face. You know, falling for each other, can be more exhilarating than you had ever imagined!
என்ன எரிச்சிப்புட்ட நீயே
தா ரா ரா ரர ரா ரா
தா ரா ரா ரர ரா ரா
Karuppu calls a friend and gets a bike for the night. Irene climbs up the pillion, with a wry grin, and holds on to his shoulder. Well… a thousand daggers must have hit the man that moment, but he channels all of that into a matter-of-fact smile. And they start whizzing through the streets. The desolate lanes tear back in silence, as the water in the potholes shimmer by the glow of the street lamps. The desolate trees on the roadside sway with the strong breeze. And whew, the girl is flying.
மழைச்சாரல் விழும் வேளை
மண்வாசம் மணம் வீச
உன் மூச்சி தொடுவேன் நான் மிதந்தேன்
By now, Karuppu had been so lost in constructing scenarios for the night ahead that he’s surprised to see how far the bike has taken them. And all of a sudden, the dhaba is in sight. There’s nothing slick about it, no fancy lighting. There aren’t any tables, just the uneven cots baring the cracks of age. Despite the late hour, they can still hear the faint music from inside. And the parotta and salna arrive. You become a fly on the cot wiring.
As Irene, on a definite high, watches Karuppu sincerely explain the parotta-eating protocol, she realises she’d never felt this happy, ever before. Even at school, she had been an outsider, always the lonely girl, the one who stayed at home watching tv on Saturday nights while her friends went to parties and out on dates. And now, with Karuppu around, everything suddenly seems to make sense. They talk a little more – about the dog she had while growing up, about his childhood friend who died of drowning, about her disastrous exams, about his liking for mutta dosa, about the things that keep them awake at nights. It’s almost like a fevered dream.
ஹோ கோடையில அடிக்கிற மழையா
நீ என்னை நனைச்சாயே
ஈரத்தில அணைக்கிற சுகத்த
He escorts her back to her house, and gets down from his bike. She pauses for a moment, smiles again, and walks inside, with a mysterious beam. Is she soaking in the sudden barrage of life’s newfound pleasures? You don’t know, yet.
But, what you do know is that getting close with someone you harbour a secret liking for is a truly divine pleasure. Regardless of how things turn out, you give them a freakin’ chance. You let them grow inside you, nice and slow. Perhaps they would turn out to be a life long friend, a lovable rogue, or instead, a person with whom you can spend the rest of your life with. Irene is still not sure how this thing with Karuppu will turn out. But, she has made a new friend, and a truckload of lovely memories. And for her, that’s the only thing that mattered.
Here’s the video song:
Film: Aadukalam (2011)